This afternoon, I welcome author, Patty Fletcher as my very first guest because I find her to be such a genuinely open and real person, someone whose life challenges don’t keep her down forever, whose faith and optimism are inspiring. Now in middle-age and self-employed, Patty long ago lost the little sight she had at birth, has been diagnosed as bi-polar, has endured the loss of employment, family, even food security, and yet continues to reach out to other people–to encourage, to instruct, to kindle a rare light of blessing and friendship wherever she goes.
And today is her birthday!
Me-oh, Patty, how nice of you to drop by on this beautiful autumn afternoon! And Campbell, too, Ari and I have been waiting for you.
Patty- Nice to visit here with you, Joan.
Me- Well, please make yourself at home. Would you like a cup of tea? Or perhaps you’d rather have coffee? And I have a few tidbits to nibble. How about a cookie or maybe a piece of fruit?
Patty- Thank you so much for the kind offer, coffee and a cookie would be most wonderful. I know I should probably have fruit but oh, I’m afraid I do have a bit of a sweet tooth.
Me-And where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table? Or would you like a comfy chair in the livingroom?
Patty- Your kitchen table would be fine, that way you can write comfortably while we snack and chat.
Me- Ah, it looks like Ari and Campbell are warming up to each other…and I have my lemon-ginger tea…now that we’re all settled, tell me a little about yourself.
What part of the country do you live in?
Patty- I live in the Northeastern corner of Tennessee in a wonderful town called Kingsport.
Me- Have you been there long?
Patty- I was born there but during my teenage years I attended school at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville. Then fora short time, my daughter, a friend of mine and I lived just across the state line in Virginia but that didn’t work out very well, so we came back home.
Later, when I was married my husband Bill, my daughter and I lived in a town not far from here called Johnson City. However, that didn’t work out as I’d hoped either so once again I returned home. It seems as though no matter what I’ve done or where I’ve gone I’ve always been drawn back to the town where I grew up.
Me- That’s interesting. What do you like best and least about living there?
Patty- I think what I like best is that my Guide Dog Campbell and I are known and loved by so many incredible people. Though he and I see very little of my family we’ve many magnificent friends and it is such fun when we go out on the bus to run errands, or to get muffins and coffee at our favorite grocer’s deli, because we’re greeted with such cheer, we always feel welcome and loved. Right from the very beginning my Campbell was accepted by the people in my town, and now no matter where we go, people are very glad to see him.
Me- That’s wonderful.
Patty- And I suppose my least favorite thing about living there is the lack of night and weekend transportation. While we’ve a couple of good Taxi companies they have few available drivers and the cost is such that it makes going to events happening during times when our busses aren’t running difficult. But the good for sure outweighs the bad.
Me- I know you write quite a bit. Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?
Patty- Oh yes. Many times I write of the adventures Campbell and I have while we’re out and about. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes sad, sometimes we have such calamities that even though they can be quite annoying, and at times a bit stressful while they’re happening, they give me such great subject matter that my fire for writing is quite well fed.
Me- Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?
Patty- I find I write best late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve some trouble with sleep, so when I find myself lying awake in bed unable to drift off, I sneak quietly out of my room so as not to wake Campbell, make myself a good strong pot of coffee, curl up in my favorite chair and let my muse take control.
Me- And just what got you started writing?
Patty- From the time I was young I knew I wanted to write. I loved making up stories, and always kept some sort of journal. My first real story was inspired by my mother’s gift of a typewriter for Christmas when I was but 12 years old.
Patty: Later, when I went to Guide Dog school at The Seeing Eye, my experiences were such that I simply knew I must write them down. I’d kept a journal the entire time I was in training and then when I returned home so many things both wonderful and terrible happened my first book was born.
Me- And I wonder, what keeps you writing? I mean, if you could sum it up in a word or in a simple statement?
Patty- Well, I wrote my first book, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, to tell the story of how going to The Seeing Eye™ ,and learning to love, handle, and work Campbell, then coming home and adding him to my life, gave me true freedom. In the book I tell of how changing from being a 31-year cane user to being a guide dog handler taught me things about myself I had never known before. I tell of the wonderment I experienced when I finally took that chance.
Another thing I have attempted to show in these many years of writing is how, in certain institutional settings, attachments can develop—and how those attachments can become unhealthy for all concerned if they are not handled correctly. Most simply, I want others to know more about me.
Me- Well I certainly have enjoyed getting to know you over these last few years. And I know I’m not the only one who has gained insight and inspiration from your writing.
Patty- Thank you. I think, the only thing I love more than writing is reading. I don’t own a TV and while many assume it is because I’m blind and don’t enjoy it because I can’t see what’s happening on the screen, they’re wrong. Reading is like traveling to another land. If the writing is good you get to feel what the author feels, see what they see, taste and smell just as they do and go all the places they go. A good book can cure so many of life’s problems
Me- A good book can certainly provide a kind of escape, or even a different perspective.
And now, do you mind if I ask a few, more “creative” questions so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person?
Patty- No problem.
Me- What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping? And what do you think that says about you?
Patty- Even though I have had many calamities while going grocery shopping, my most favorite thing about it is the independence I feel while getting there and home. While some see riding the bus to and from the store as a noisome chore and even for me at times that can be so, I love doing it because it is something I can do all on my own with no help. I just gather my backpack, or a large shopping bag, whistle up my pup and off we go. There are always interesting people along the way and when we arrive just getting inside and to the service desk can be a wonderful adventure. Then there’s the shopping experience itself. Even if we get a shopping assistant who doesn’t know quite how to work with Campbell and me I have the joy of teaching them and that allows me to educate yet another person about Guide Dogs and the work they do. We always have the most wonderful conversations with folks as we go along picking out our groceries and most times by the time we return home I’ve another fabulous story to share. Me- Here’s a funny question: What is your favorite punctuation mark?
Patty- Oh boy! This question will bring a frown to some of your readers I’m sure, because I like the exclamation mark. Though some don’t think it should ever be used and in fact, I was told once that people don’t take one’s writing seriously if it is used I think that’s nothing but so much rubbish. While I know it can be over used, I simply can’t think of any better way to express great joy, excitement, or raging anger without it. So to all the nay Sayers to the
exclamation mark I just have to say…
POO! ! !
Me- Oh, I know you need to be going before it gets too late, but tell me where I can learn more about your work.
Patty-Here are a few of my links
Me- Thank you so much for visiting with us, Patty…and you , too, Campbell. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.
Patty- Oh My! Thank you for having us today. This was great fun. Campbell and I will for sure be back to visit any time you’d like to have us.
And as I hug my guests goodbye, close the door, and ready myself to welcome Shabbot, I can’t help feeling grateful for the week, and its blessings. I carefully arrange two candles on the mantle, flick the switch on the candle-lighter, and bring the flame to the wick. Then I close my eyes and sigh:
Blessed are you Beloved One who enables us to kindle the Sabbath lights
And let us say: Amen
PS- If you would like to be featured in an upcoming *Kindling Friendship* please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org